American Leprosy Missions Awards $41,000 for Innovation in NTDs

Sep 9, 2021

(Greenville, S.C., September 9, 2021) ⸺ American Leprosy Missions, a platinum sponsor of the 12th Annual Neglected Tropical Diseases NGO Network Conference, announced the two winners of the 2021 NTD Innovation Prize during the closing plenary. Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) affect more than one billion of the world’s most vulnerable people. ​​Launched in 2019, American Leprosy Missions’ NTD Innovation Prize is the first of its kind, supporting creativity and ingenuity within the NTD sector.

This year American Leprosy Missions, in partnership with Novartis, awarded $40,000 to finalists in two domains: $20,000 to data and analytics finalists Dr. Amber Barton and Dr. Martin Holland from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, U.K. and another $20,000 to diagnostics finalist Dr. Temitope Agbana of the Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands. Additionally, Dr. Anthony Ablordey at the University of Ghana’s Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, another diagnostics finalist, received the $1,000 Popular Choice Award based on popular voting through the NTD Innovation Hub.

The study proposed by Barton and Holland seeks to apply artificial intelligence tools to classify participants into clinical categories and predict their likelihood of developing scarring and blindness due to trachoma. This non-invasive technique will allow high-resolution cellular imaging of the ocular surface and better determine which patients are at risk of scarring, improving the more subjective current system.

Agbana’s diagnostic tool, the Schistoscope, seeks to address the need for digital tools in schistosomiasis diagnosis, particularly in rural endemic areas. The Schistoscope combines technical optics with specialized data-driven algorithms, generating data that can be accessible offline and uploaded on remote servers. A portable, affordable tool creating digital data will accelerate large-scale diagnosis for community mapping.

The $1,000 Popular Choice Award went to Ablordey’s proposal for a rapid diagnostic test for Buruli ulcer that can be deployed in endemic settings to facilitate early and timely diagnosis. His study will help determine feasibility of the Dried Reagents-Based IS2404 loop-mediated isothermal amplification (DRB-IS2404 LAMP) test.

Since launching the NTD Innovation Prize in 2019, American Leprosy Missions has awarded more than $100,000 to projects creating positive impact for people affected by NTDs. Applications for the next iteration of the NTD Innovation Prize will be accepted at in spring 2022.

About American Leprosy Missions

American Leprosy Missions, based in Greenville, South Carolina, is the oldest and largest Christian organization in the United States dedicated to curing and caring for people affected by leprosy and related diseases. It currently supports projects, programs and partners in countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas. Since its founding in 1906, American Leprosy Missions has provided holistic care to more than four million people around the world including medical treatment and training, disease mapping and management, community development and research.

For Additional Information

Sarah Hesshaus, Vice President of Business Process and Communications
864.241.1731 | [email protected]